by Joseph LaQuiere

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through photography of His created world"
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Canon 1D Mark II N "Report"

The 5D when equipped with the battery grip is only $400 less than the 1D N. Considering the only gain would be the full size chip I did not want to give up the exceptional focusing ability, phenomenal speed and "Pro" features that I have come to enjoy so much in the Canon 1 series cameras.  I felt that I would be disappointed to change from the feel of the 1 series body.  I also very much like the 1.3 crop factor of the 1d Mark II which puts you kind of at the middle road between the advantages of full frame, shooting performance and speed, and lens angle of view.  I am not sure how it will turn out, once the images are compared and reviews written, but it is also curious if you look at a graphic representation of pixels on the chip (Dp review sensor graphic) . The sensor on both the 5d and the 1d Mark II are identical. This leads one to believe that basic resolution is identical.  It looks like the chip is just larger with no resolution gained from the 12.7 Mega Pixels of the 5D over the 8.2 of the 1D Mark II


Yes, I am looking forward to a full frame camera, but for now, the speed, performance, resolution and price all focus down to the 1D Mark II N, for me.  I will wait till at least the next generation of Canon's before I change.


Where do I notice the improvements in the "N" version?
The most noticeable change is of course the LCD, it is substantially larger and does indeed have a better angle of view making viewing images much nicer.  I always noticed with the original Mark II it was difficult to see any image when  viewed in the portrait orientation. Something about how the pixels were displayed made viewing with your eyes 90deg  to the bottom or top of the camera a problem no mater how you tilted the camera.  The other big problem with the old Mark II was checking focus with the LCD.  I learned to completely ignore how well an image appeared to be focused on the LCD because when you used the magnify tool the enlargement and screen resolution made any picture look out of focus.  In this regard while, not perfect, the "N" camera allows you to get a much better idea if the image is focused or not.  There is still some sense of being blurry but it is more like seeing an image at 100% on screen in PhotoShop.  You can easily learn what an image looks like when it is truly in focus on the "N" LCD.


Not all is perfect with the LCD however, it is not as bright as the original 1d Mark II, which itself was not all that bright.  There are some good and bad aspects to this, on the good side, you are not mislead by an overly bright screen thinking that a photo is too light also  the color representation is more accurate than the older screen.  Of course the bad feature is that it is difficult to see in the sunlight or for that mater in any bright conditions.
While this surely is disappointing the larger size and the much better magnification helps one overlook the lack of brightness. 
(see the Update at the bottom of the page

Along with better magnification quality Canon has added the ability to zoom from the focus point and do it in only one step.  With this feature turned on, in the menu, you can press the display button then the magnify button and it will immediately zoom from the selected focus point to a magnification level suitable for checking focus.  This is a great feature and I routinely use it.  I have my camera set up to display the histogram after the shot then I can immediately press the play button and the magnify button and check focus.  This operation can be completed immediately after shooting thanks to added processing power and speed in this camera.


Selecting which card slot to use, SD or CF, on the original Mark II was completely ill thought out and required two buttons press and rotating the wheel several times.  This was most frustrating when running out of room on one card during an important shot and then having to fumble around with the camera to switch to the other card.  Now the card slot may be selected simply by pressing one button and rotating the wheel, bravo!


I should mention a little about the picture quality.  There is really no expectation that picture quality be any better or worse than the previous model because the sensor has remained the same.  However I do notice a change, for the better, in image quality.  I cannot say precisely what the difference is and I do not have my original Mark II to do an exact comparison but I like the depth of color better. The fine detail and dynamic range seems to be better as well but in general I just like the images I am getting out of this new "N" model better.


I also find that I do use the user presets. Even though these parameters can be changed in raw conversion and are mainly for jpg creation I like the feedback that I get from the LCD, or when browsing images with my favorite program, Breeze Browser.  I like when the image has contrast and saturation that looks good in the preview.  It is also for this reason that I often have my camera set to cloudy WB to add a little warmth to my previews.  It makes me feel better about the image I have just created and gives me more enthusiasm for the next.


If you are an existing 1D Mark II owner is the "N" worth the price of upgrade? Likely  not,  if you have other reasons to upgrade from an existing Mark II then you will enjoy the extras. Overall the camera is very similar to the original model and for all practical use will take the identical picture.  Canon basically has kept it competitive to the 5d so that purchasers that want the speed and durability of the 1 series won't have to sacrifice the LCD to get it.  Of course the 1Ds still has the best imaging chip in a DSLR so there is plenty of draw still, for that model.  Why Canon did not give the 1Ds the same minor upgrade I don't  know.  Perhaps we can look forward to a new and completely different flagship camera from Canon who knows.  Canon certainly could have done more to the camera and there are other annoying things they could clean up (one of them being the mirror lockup selection) but what they have added is welcome.  They have taken a camera at the top of the heap in performance and fine tuned it some more.  If you desire the best and fastest camera available for wildlife and sports than there is none other than the 1D Mark II N.
Canon 1D MKII N Sigma 50-500 1/640sec f/5.6, ISO:200
Canon 1D MKII N 70-200 L 1/800sec f/6.3, ISO:100
The hype is of course over the new ground breaking, full frame, Canon 5D.  But after 13 months and 45,000 images on my original Canon 1D Mark II I had the opportunity to upgrade.  So what did I choose?  The Canon 1d Mark II N. 

My goal in this report is not to point out and discuss every new feature but just give a synopsis of what I notice about the camera and have found important.  For a complete rundown of the changes to the camera  you can go to the Canon Website or read a thorough review at Steves Digicams .

Truthfully not much has changed in this model but I will tell you why I did not go for the 5D and what I think of the new "N" designation.

First I have been immensely satisfied with the 1D Mark II and, as the picture count attests to, I have spent a lot of time with it in my hands.  The 1 series bodies are just a joy to hold they fit wonderfully in the hand and feel solid and precise.  I made the transition to the 1D series body from a 10D.  This requires a little bit of adjustment because many of the menus and selections require two button presses and, while looking similar with the selection wheel, the operation is quite different.  Supposedly this is to keep from accidental changes in settings, but quite frankly I think this is more of an annoyance than a help.  Canon however, has determined that this is the way the "Pros" want it. Once one makes the adjustment though, these functions become second nature.

The main changes, as I see it, between the Mark II and the Mark II "N" are the larger LCD screen, easier one button press for memory card selection and the addition of the expanded user defined "Picture Style" settings.  The new camera is priced at $3999 down $500 from the previous model.
UPDATE!   Nov 6, 2005

 I have had several readers inquire about what "User" settings I am using so here are my settings.

Picture Style= Standard
Color Tone= 0

Bear in mind that these settings are not for the purpose of camera produced JPGS but rather for display on both the camera LCD and afterward when I view the images on my PC.  For optimal out of the camera JPG files you may need to do a little experimenting to get the results that you are looking for.

Let me also make a few comments about RAW conversion to date.  Currently there are 4 major converters available.
Canon DPP

I have used all the above programs and the one I like to work with best is Bibble.  Bibble is flexible and powerful and renders 1D Mark II N files well.  It requires a bit of a learning curve but currently is the most capable in processing a large amount of files with good color.

Raw Shooter
I have recently put a article on line about RawShooter which has some color problems with the "N" camera.

Canon DPP
You should not overlook Cannon DPP.  While not as flexible as others nor does it have the ability to recover as much shadow and highlight detail it nonetheless yields excellent color and is free.   I have published a short  article on how I used DPP, when forced to, because there was no other software yet supporting the "N" camera.

And finally BreezeBrowser, my favorite file handler and file viewer is also a very respectable RAW converter.  It does not work well for many files and is slow, however it does an excellent job of conversion on files that are destine for PS, editing and printing.

UPDATE!   Dec 23, 2005
Firmware update for the 1D Mark II N
The brightness of the 1D Mark II N LCD left much to be desired and while the new LCD was supposed to be an improvement I found it troublesome to view in broad daylight.  Canon was able to address this in a firmware update and now I am pleased to report that the LCD is about the same brightness as the origional 1D Mark II.

Now if only they would fix the mirror lockup and allow it to be activated with the 2sec timer!
November 1, 2005